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You’re all about eating more protein to build muscle, increase strength, and recover after a workout. You’ve stocked up on the best protein powders, meal-prepped some seriously impressive high-protein entrees, and packed your gym bag full of protein bars, but could you be taking this obsession a little too far? How much protein is too much?

Building muscle requires considerably more protein than what’s needed for maintenance. Increasing protein intake suppresses muscle protein breakdown, resulting in a positive net protein balance needed to build muscle mass and boost metabolism1. With those benefits, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a protein craze!

However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and this rings true for protein intake. Overdoing it can be wasteful, ineffective, and even harmful. In this article, we’ll review how much protein is too much, if it’s bad for you, and how much daily protein intake to aim for to get the best results. 

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

How Much Protein Is Too Much?

It’s difficult for the average person to eat too much protein per day, but it can happen—especially if you’re throwing back protein shakes regularly. According to the Mayo Clinic, you shouldn’t consume more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily2.

Following this recommendation, someone weighing 150 pounds wouldn’t want to eat more than 136 grams of protein daily. To put this into perspective, a high-protein meal generally has between 20 to 40 grams of protein. You would likely need to eat several high-protein meals plus high-protein snacks or protein powder supplements to eat that much protein!

best protein bars for men feature photo

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There is some preliminary evidence suggesting that much higher protein intake (>3g/kg/day) could benefit body composition3. However, a 2014 study found that a very high protein consumption of 4.4 grams per kilogram of body weight did not result in significant changes in body composition compared to the control group4.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. This is the average dietary daily protein intake considered sufficient for most healthy individuals. Under this recommendation, a person weighing 150 pounds would need 55 grams of protein daily. 

That said, more recent research indicates that protein intakes above the current RDA help promote healthy aging, appetite regulation, weight management, and athletic performance5.

Reputable organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine, and International Society for Sports Nutrition, recommend increasing protein intake to 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to support muscle growth, post-workout recovery, and performance5.

This wide protein intake range may leave the average person with more questions than answers. Activity level, age, and body size all play a role in determining personalized protein needs. If you’re an avid gym goer or bodybuilder, your high physical activity level may necessitate a protein intake on the higher end of this range, especially if you’re looking to maximize muscle strength and size. 

Work with a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition to determine the amount of protein you need to reach your goals. 

Is Too Much Protein Bad For You?

You might have heard that eating too much protein could cause kidney damage. However, there’s no significant evidence linking high protein intake to kidney damage in healthy, exercising individuals6.

A series of studies spanning up to one year in duration utilized protein intakes of up to 2.5 to 3.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day in healthy resistance-trained individuals and found that increased protein intakes exerted no harmful effect on blood lipids or markers of kidney and liver function3.

On the contrary, excess protein can cause harm to those with pre-existing kidney disease because the damaged kidneys have to work harder to filter out nitrogen and other waste products of protein metabolism. 

Evidence regarding the relationship between high protein intake and kidney stone formation is inconsistent. While some studies found no association between protein intake and stone formation, one 2021 systematic review indicated that high-protein diets increased urinary calcium excretion, a risk factor for calcium stone formation7

An image for the Sunwarrior protein review

Additionally, eating too much protein in the form of red or processed meat could put you at an increased risk of cancer. A diet high in red and/or processed meat is linked to colorectal, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancer8

If most of your protein intake comes from red meat or full-fat dairy foods, you may also be at a higher risk of developing heart disease. This is likely due to the saturated fat and cholesterol content of these high-protein food sources. 

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How Can You Tell If You’re Getting Too Much Protein?

Bad breath, constipation, weight gain, and dehydration may be signs that you’re eating too much protein. Many of these side effects are the result of an unbalanced diet. When you eat a lot of protein, you may eat less of other important nutrients. 

RELATED: How Much Protein Should I Eat To Lose Weight?

Eating a high-protein diet with very little carbohydrate intake may cause your body to go into the metabolic state of ketosis, which can cause bad breath. Acetone produced during ketosis causes a fruity-smelling breath that some find unpleasant. 

High-protein diets that are low in carbs may also lead to constipation from not eating enough fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance that softens stool and makes it easier to pass. 

RELATED: Best Fiber Supplements for Constipation

Too much protein could also lead to dehydration from increased urine output. Your body flushes out nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism, with fluids. You may need to increase your water intake, especially if you live an active lifestyle. 

Although a high-protein diet may help with weight loss, eating too much protein for prolonged periods can result in weight gain due to excess calorie intake. Extra protein is stored in the body as fat, and the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are excreted in urine.

If your protein intake is causing you to eat fewer fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, you’re likely eating too much protein. An unbalanced diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Aim to eat a high-protein diet without neglecting other food groups and macronutrients. 

Does Exercise Affect How Much Protein I Need?

Protein needs vary depending on how active you are. Very active individuals need enough protein to maintain lean mass and build and repair muscle after a workout. 

People who exercise regularly need around 1.1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily2. Increased protein intake is necessary for maintaining lean muscle mass for activities like yard work, walking, and riding a bike.

man standing at desk scooping powder from bottle performix protein powder

Those who do strength training or train for endurance events need 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily2. During intense bouts of resistance exercise, the proteins that make up your muscle fibers become damaged, and increased protein is needed post-workout to repair and rebuild skeletal muscle tissues3.

When increasing your protein intake to align with your activity level, choose protein-rich foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and limit your intake of processed meats. Include sources of protein such as legumes, nuts, fish, chicken breast, pork, lean beef, and low-fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet.

How Much Protein Is Too Much? Final Thoughts 

While increasing your protein intake can provide the body with many health benefits, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Eating more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily may increase your chances of developing kidney stones, cancer, and heart disease. 

You may be eating too much protein if you are neglecting other important nutrients like fiber and healthy fats. Bad breath, constipation, weight gain, and dehydration could be signs that you’re overdoing it on the protein. 

  • The RDA for protein intake is 0.8 g/kg/day for healthy adults.
  • If you are regularly physically active, you may have increased protein needs of 1.1-1.5 g/kg/day.
  • If you do strength training or are training for an endurance event, an even higher protein intake of 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day may be appropriate. 
  • It’s not recommended to consume more than 2 g/kg/day, as this could be harmful and likely won’t provide additional benefits. 

How Much Protein Is Too Much? Q&A

Is 200g of protein a day too much?

It’s not recommended to eat more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. Following this recommendation, a healthy adult weighing 220 pounds could eat up to 200 grams of protein daily. However, if you weigh less than 200 pounds, this amount of protein could be excessive.

Is 100 grams of protein a day too much?

It’s not recommended to eat more than 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. Following this recommendation, a healthy adult weighing 110 pounds could eat up to 100 grams of protein daily. This amount of protein may be excessive if you weigh less than 110 pounds.

What happens if I eat too much protein?

Eating too much protein could be harmful and ineffective. Excess protein may increase your risk of developing kidney stones, cancer, and heart disease. You may experience bad breath, constipation, weight gain, and/or dehydration if you eat too much protein.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Tipton, KD., Hamilton, DL., Gallagher, IJ. Assessing the Role of Muscle Protein Breakdown in Response to Nutrition and Exercise in Humans. Sports Med. 2018;48(Suppl 1):53-64. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0845-5
  2. Mayo Clinic Health System. Are You Getting Too Much Protein? 2022;4(19).
  3. Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:20. Published 2017 Jun 20. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
  4. Antonio, J., Peacock, C.A., Ellerbroek, A. et al. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 19 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-19
  5. Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health [published correction appears in Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):615]. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(5):565-572. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0550
  6. Martin WF, Armstrong LE, Rodriguez NR. Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005;2:25. Published 2005 Sep 20. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-25
  7. Siener R. Nutrition and Kidney Stone Disease. Nutrients. 2021;13(6):1917. Published 2021 Jun 3. doi:10.3390/nu13061917
  8. Farvid, M.S., Stern, M.C., Norat, T., Sasazuki, S., Vineis, P., Weijenberg, M.P., Wolk, A., Wu, K., Stewart, B.W. and Cho, E. (2018), Consumption of red and processed meat and breast cancer incidence: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int. J. Cancer, 143: 2787-2799. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.31848

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You’re all about eating more protein to build muscle, increase strength, and recover after a workout. You’ve stocked up on the best protein powders, meal-prepped some seriously impressive high-protein entrees, and packed your gym bag full of protein bars, but could you be taking this obsession a little too far? How much protein is too much?Building muscle requires considerably more protein than what’s needed for maintenance. Increasing protein intake suppresses muscle protein breakdown,  » Read more about: How Much Protein Is Too Much?  » Read more